Ohio State vs. Xavier NCAA Basketball Betting Analysis and Free Pick

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Zach Freemantle #32 of the Xavier Musketeers defends against the Butler Bulldogs. Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP

The best rivalry that never meets will resume on Thursday night for the first time in 87 years when Ohio State travels to in-state foe, Xavier.

What are the NCAAB odds for this one you ask? Let’s find out!

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Xavier Musketeers

Thursday, November 18, 2021, 06:30 PM EST at Cintas Center

The two teams have played in each other’s shadow for decades but have met just four times in regular-season games in their histories, the last time in 1934-35. They’ve met twice in the postseason since, in the 1984 NIT and the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

Both of those games went to overtime, as have three of the last four meetings between the two teams. The game will serve as the main event of the Gavitt Games, an annual series between the Big Ten and Big East.

Rare Road Trip

Ohio State is 3-0 on the year, with home wins over Akron, Niagara and Bowling Green. This will be the first road trip of the year for the Buckeyes. They've won its last 12 games against in-state foes and the last 23 regular-season games against Ohio opponents, dating back to 1998.

The Buckeyes will be led by forward E.J. Liddell, who will be the best player on the court. He’s averaging 27 ppg so far this season and will be tough for Xavier to match up against. Liddell is 10-of-11 near the rim this season and 5-of-13 from three. There is depth up front, with Zed Key also averaging in double figures and senior Kyle Young coming off the bench.

The backcourt features senior Jamari Wheeler and a pair of freshmen, in Meechie Johnson and Malaki Branham. Wheeler is the team’s best perimeter defender and will likely be tasked with slowing down Xavier’s Paul Scruggs. Ohio State will likely be without senior wing Justise Sueing. Coach Chris Holtmann said Sueing was out indefinitely after hurting his leg.

Matching Up Inside

The Musketeers are 2-0 on the season with home wins over Niagara and Kent State. Xavier has gone 11-4 in its last 15 games against Big Ten teams, so the Musketeers will be relishing the chance to knock off the Buckeyes.

Xavier will rely on seven-footer Jack Nunge and 6-foot-8 Jerome Hunter to stop Liddell and the rest of the Ohio State post players. Nunge is a skilled shot-blocker, and he’s familiar with the Buckeyes, having transferred from fellow Big Ten opponent Iowa in the offseason. Hunter gets a surprising number of steals for a big man.

They’ll each be giving up 30 pounds to their Buckeye matchups, but they appear to be up to the task. Plus, 6-foot-11 Dieonte Miles will likely see increased time to help with the defense in the paint and out to the perimeter.

For offense, the Musketeers will lean on Paul Scruggs, who is averaging 20 ppg this season. He’s also averaging six rebounds and led the team in assists last year. Guard Colby Jones and Indiana transfer Jerome Hunter will also add scoring and playmaking in the backcourt and wing.

Xavier will need to hit shots from outside to knock off the Buckeyes. The Musketeers are in the bottom 30 in the nation in three-point shooting so far this season, hitting about a quarter of their attempts. Nunge, the seven-footer, is leading the team and is the only Xavier player hitting at 33 percent.

Xavier has only played eight players this season, which could present a depth problem against an Ohio State team that has played 10 or more in every game.

The Pick

Despite playing in a sold-out arena that will be rabidly supporting them, the Musketeers are home dogs for the game. Xavier has waited nearly nine decades for a chance to play the Buckeyes on their home court and will be ready to roll. If anything can snap them out of their early-season shooting slump it’s the presence of Ohio State. Look for Xavier to spring the upset for your NCAAB picks.

NCAAB Pick: Xavier +2.5 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Xavier +2.5 (-110)
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